Letters: Pessimism about our planet's future

These letters appear in the Monday 1st April edition of The Independent

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Cuts hit the poor and powerless

Of course “we are all in it together”. But in Holy Week, or any other week, could there be a more nauseating prospect than that of the rich and powerful, who are in it up to the soles of their shoes, making it their business to ensure that the poor and powerless, already in it up to their necks, drown in it? And all in the name of fairness!

Such is the effect of the bedroom tax. Throw in the tax cut for the rich and powerful and you have the most egregious example of heartless hypocrisy in political memory. Shame on them, and shame on us if we let them get away with it.

John Butterworth


Lesley Wilson (letter, 28 March) does fall into the “politically naive” category, not realising that austerity is a political programme, not an economic one. 

The depression – not a double- or triple-dip recession, but a depression – into which we and the rest of Europe have fallen is the result of political decision-making. It is not the result of previous government policies, which left us with debt, but also with a prospect of slow but steady growth; it is the result of the current government’s policies of trying to cure the deficit with spending cuts. 

Spending cuts, by their very nature, cause a fall in the national income, made worse by the effects on confidence and on demand. So a simple and effective alternative policy would be to stop cutting. Further cuts can only damage the economy further. Debt can be repaid more easily when the economy is growing. Over and above the economic effect of allowing the economy to grow, there is the benefit that any extra expenditure which is channelled into useful production (let’s say roads) creates a long-term benefit to the economy (the roads). 

So when people use the simple and misleading analogy “You can’t cure a deficit by borrowing more” let’s use an equally simplistic one: “When you have a debt problem don’t give up your job(s).”

Joe Melone


With reference to the various cuts to benefits and services due to start soon, it would seem to me that the Government is starting at the wrong end.

Instead of cutting housing benefit, shouldn’t they look at what landlords are charging and limit that? The same with the cuts to legal aid. How about looking at the frequently exorbitant charges made by the legal profession for their services instead of reserving the law for the wealthy?

In the Health Service it should be the wages of top management, top consultants and, above all, the pharmaceutical suppliers that should be the subject of cuts.

Start at the top, not at the  bottom.

Kate Palmer

London SE21

Who now will fight for Planet Earth?

Having been involved in environmental issues for over 30 years, I share Michael McCarthy’s pessimism about the prognosis for planet Earth (“Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth”, 30 March). However his own profession must carry part of the blame.

In 1988 I organised a three-day international conference at the Royal Institute of British Architects on ozone depletion, and we included a session on climate change chaired by Sir John Maddox FRS, the late editor of Nature. The conference received extensive coverage from both press and television.

Last year I organised a five-day conference on climate change at RIBA. The line-up of speakers was no less impressive, but not a single journalist turned up and the conference received no coverage.

I have struggled to understand why a process that threatens the integrity of our planet has been relegated to a fringe issue. Partly it is because scientifically illiterate newspapers such as the Daily Mail and The Sunday Telegraph have been persistent and influential in promoting climate change denial. Other newspapers such as The Times and FT accept the reality of climate change but promote shale gas as the solution. A sane approach seems limited to The Independent and The Guardian, but this transforms climate change from a global problem into a political issue.

In 1988 John Maddox foresaw clearly that the failure of mankind to control climate change would lead to the melting of the ice-caps and sea-level rises that would destroy human civilisation as we know it. Nothing has changed except that  annual emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have increased by over 50 per cent.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones FRCP FRCPath

Chair, Friends of the Earth Pollution Advisory Committee 1984-89

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

So goodbye and very best wishes to Michael McCarthy after his years of labour on the environmental pages. I confess that I am with him on his pessimism. There’s surely no way out of the bind we are in and it cannot be long before rising human numbers, our wasteful use of resources and the destruction of the natural world will rebound upon us with devastating effect.

His little nod towards the Easter message as the means of our salvation is touching, but mankind as a whole is not going to confess its sins and turn away from evil ways, and even if the process were started, there is insufficient time to complete the job before the holocaust is upon us.

The best we can do is seek for ways to mitigate the worst, and that is still worth fighting for.

John Gamlin

East Bergholt, Suffolk

Thank you to Michael McCarthy for his campaigning for the survival of life on this planet, and I hope he will continue the fight despite his pessimism.

Largely because of the environmental damage wreaked by so many of our profit-driven economies, and vast multi-national  corporations and banks which fund their activities, we could well end up with no economies at all, and an uninhabitable planet filled with sadness and regret.

Rob Baur

Llanarmon D C, Wrexham

Michael McCarthy (Nature Studies, 28 March) refers to the “curiously named” Barnack Hills and Holes Nature Reserve. The reserve was once a quarry which provided excellent Barnack limestone to build many churches and cathedrals including Peterborough, Lincoln and Ely (which paid 8,000 eels annually for the stone). Hence it is apt that the Pasque (Easter flower) grows on the site.

Chris Jones

Dyke, Lincolnshire

Innocent papers suffer with guilty

It’s a shame that someone cannot devise a risk assessment scheme for the regulation of the press.

It seems most unfair that organs which indulge in genuine investigative journalism such as The Independent and Private Eye, newspapers such as the Racing Post and similar magazines that deal exclusively with recreational interests, as well as honest and community-minded local newspapers, should all have to suffer.

Insurers load premiums for persistent claimers. This situation is the fault of a clutch of tawdry national daily and Sunday newspapers whose main features are their lubriciousness and their hostility to minorities. Newspapers and magazines who have a clean record should be exempted from all this supervision, which could then be concentrated on the wrongdoers.

Ian Craine

London N15

Stand up for the Falklands

I am pleased to be able to tell Peter Flynn (letter, 27 March) that the general view is that we could actually defend the Falkland Islands.

The Argentine armed forces are in such a hopeless state that if they tried to stage another invasion we would have ample time to get a T45 destroyer and an Astute class submarine in place. Given good luck the destroyer could bring down the entire Fuerza Aerea Argentina in a single salvo, and the Astute could follow up with conventional land-attack missiles to obliterate the airfields the attacks came from.

It is my guess that the Argentine government are well aware of this, and will restrain their actions to the windy rhetoric and economic bullying of a small and peaceful neighbour that they are currently indulging in.

Which is perhaps just as well if there are many people like Mr Flynn who believe that we should sell out a small and peaceful population against their democratically expressed wishes, in the interests of a quiet life.

R S Foster


ISPs can’t filter out pornography

Ellen Purton (letter, 30 March) asks why internet providers cannot filter their content at the ISP level to remove pornography. This is impossible unless these providers examine every one of the billions of web pages on the internet to check whether it contains porn.

Even filtering out web pages that contain certain words will be ineffective, because new terminology for porn genres and fetishes is always being created. Other than blocking all but a select few websites you can’t stop people looking at porn any more than you can stop them looking at pictures of cats.

Thomas Wiggins

Wokingham, Berkshire

Mitchell keeps on digging

The latest display of petulance from Andrew Mitchell (“Mitchell to sue The Sun over Plebgate”, 30 March) does at least show a degree of consistency. His original hissy fit (bicyclegate) where he admits he swore repeatedly at the police for daring to enforce the Downing Street security and access rules, shows a similar attitude.

If he had just said sorry and kept his head down, he would still be in government. Now he is reinforcing his image of a spoiled “posh boy”.

Ian Hall

Portland, Dorset

Sleep when it’s dark

To discourage seditious gatherings, William the Conqueror imposed an eight-o’-clock curfew on the whole population. An unintended spin-off was the only rational way of maximising daylight waking hours.

If we all went to bed at eight in the evening and got up at four in the morning, we would spend the longest possible hours in daylight, come winter come summer, and we wouldn’t have to bother with changing the clocks twice a year.




We have now seen at least three knights of the realm being exposed for a variety of failings: Sir Fred Goodwin, Sir David Nicholson and now Sir Norman Bettison. This not only invites cynicism about what these gongs amount to, but also warrants some more proper scrutiny about how they are awarded.

Jonathan Smith

London W3